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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

In the early morning tahr move uphill onto alpine pastures, descending to the refuge of cliffs and scrub forest at night. Adult males tend to range more widely and independently outside the rutting season (3). Most (70%) of the daylight hours are spent feeding, mainly in the early morning and late afternoon, and resting around midday. Tahr are predominantly grazers, feeding on grasses and herbs, but they do browse the leaves of shrubs particularly when pastures are snow-covered (3). They live in mixed herds, commonly from several to 15 within a group and occasionally up to 80 or more, depending on the terrain (4) (5). During the rut males, who become sexually mature after two years, compete for mating privileges. These competitive displays consist of two males walking stiffly parallel to each other, with their manes erect, heads down and horns exposed to intimidate each other (2). Usually one of the males will retreat submissively, and it is rare for a display to end with direct horn wrestling. The intensity of such struggles seems to be less than that observed in other species of ungulates (7). Males also display to the females, spending hours strutting in front of them before mating (4). In the Himalayas the rut lasts from late October to January or even February (7), and in New Zealand from April to July (2); this difference is due to the six month shift in seasons (2). Outside the breeding season, males live together in separate groups and females leave their group in order to give birth after a seven month gestation period (5). Females usually give birth to one offspring per birth, which are weaned at about six months. The Himalayan tahr lifespan is between 10 to 14 years, with females living longer than males, although individuals have been reported to live up to 22 years (7).
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Description

The Himalayan tahr is a relative of the wild goat and is specially adapted to life on the rugged mountain slopes of the Himalayas, extending from the montane to alpine zones (4). George Schaller (1977) describes tahr as “… the quintessential goat…” because it selects the most inaccessible terrain in which to live (3). It has a dense, reddish to dark brown woolly coat with a thick undercoat, keeping it warm in the winter (5). In the spring, as temperatures rise, it loses much of its coat, and becomes lighter in colour. The hooves are also well adapted, making tahr excellent climbers with flexible, rubbery cores allowing them to grip smooth rocks, and hard, sharp keratin rims enabling them to lodge their hooves into small footholds (4). The head is proportionally small, with large eyes, and small pointed ears. Both the males and the females have horns, reaching a maximum size of 46 centimetres, though the females' horns are smaller in size (2). The horns of the Himalayan tahr curve backwards and slightly inwards towards the body, which prevents serious injury in head butting battles between males during the mating season. The young look very similar to the adults in shape but their coat is uniformly brown and their legs black (5). Adult males are easily distinguished by their pronounced ruff and mane (3).
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Distribution

Hemitragus jemlahicus is native to the southern flanks of the Himalaya Mountains from northern India east to Bhutan, as far north as Tibet. It has been widely introduced elsewhere for hunting. After introduction to New Zealand in 1904 it spread to all the suitable habitat there. There are also introducted populations in New Mexico, California, Ontario, and South Africa.

(Forsyth and Hickling 1998; Kingel; Tustin 1990; Williams 2001)

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Introduced ); australian (Introduced )

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Range Description

This species is found in the Himalayas including China (southern Tibet), north India (Jammu and Kashmir to Sikkim), and Nepal. It is introduced in New Zealand and Western Cape Province (South Africa) (Grubb, 2005).

In China, tahr appear to be found in only in a few spots along the southern Tibet border near Qubuo river, extending south into the Himalayas and can be expected in extreme western Tibet adjacent to known populations in India (Wang 1998, Smith and Xie 2008). In India, the Himalayan tahr occurs in timberline regions across the southern forested slopes of the Himalaya from Jammu and Kashmir to Sikkim (Sathyakmuar 2002). It is patchily distributed from south-central Kashmir, eastward through the southern part of Kulu District (Himachal Pradesh) between 2,000 and 3,270 m (Gaston et al., 1981, 1983), and more widely present at similar elevations through northern Uttarakhand to the Nepalese border. Small numbers are also found in east and west Sikkim near the borders with Nepal and Bhutan. Formerly the Himalayan tahr had a continuous distribution throughout Nepal between 1,500 and 5,200 m, but this is now being increasingly disrupted by activities related to human encroachment (Green, 1978, 1979). Tahr inhabits temperate to sub-alpine forests up to treeline, between 2500 and 5,200 m. Schaller (1977) mapped fourteen locations of tahr, and there are undoubtedly more. There are no recent, credible reports of tahr from Bhutan (T. Wangchuk pers. comm., 2008), though it possibly occurs in the extreme west of the country.
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: Himalayan region from Kashmir through northern India to Nepal and Sikkim; southern Tibet. Introduced in New Zealand, South Africa, and California (Nowak 1991; Grubb, in Wilson and Reeder 1993).

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Range

As the common name of this species suggests, the Himalayan tahr is native to the southern range of the Himalayan Mountains, and is dispersed from northern India east to Bhutan (6). There are also populations in New Zealand, New Mexico, California, Ontario, and South Africa, which were originally introduced for hunting (2). In South Island, New Zealand the species caused major damage to the alpine tussock grasses until the late 1970s, when populations were effectively managed by culling from helicopters (3).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Hemitragus jemlahicus has relatively short legs and a small head. Males are large than females. Males average 73 kg in weight while females average 36 kg. Their hooves are well-adapted for their mountain habitat, with a hard rim of keratin surrounding a soft spongy convex pad. These hooves and strong dewclaws allow them to be excellent climbers.

The adult male in winter has a dark face and muzzle, sides and hindquarters black to red-brown, a reddish rump patch, and a lighter underside. It has a thick ruff or mane around its neck and shoulders and down its front legs. Older males are darker, with a light band along the flanks and a dark mid-dorsal line. The mane may be as long as 250 cm and is slate grey to straw-colored. The adult female in winter is grey to brown with a darker muzzle and legs and a light underside. The summer coat in adults of both sexes is shorter and lighter brown to straw-colored. Young are uniformly brown except for the front of their legs, which are black.

Both sexes have horns which curve up, back, and then in. They are laterally flattened, triangular in cross-section, and have a keel on the front edge. Males have longer horns (up to 450 mm) than females (up to 190 mm).

(Forsyth 1998; Huffman; Tustin 1990)

Range mass: 36 to 90 kg.

Range length: 90 to 140 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Ecology

Habitat

In the Himalayas, Hemitragus jemlahicus prefers rugged wooded hills and mountains slopes in the subalpine and alpine regions from 3500-4500 meters in elevation. It may also seasonally use mixed oak forests as low as 2500 meters and alpine meadows as high as 5000 meters.

In New Zealand H. jemlahicus lives on grassy mountain slopes, large rock bluff systems, snow tussok basins, and the uppermost subalpine scrubland from 750-2250 meters in elevation. It prefers north and north-east facing slopes, which are sunnier and have less snow accumulation in the winter.

(Klingel; Tustin 1990)

Range elevation: 750 to 5000 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate

Terrestrial Biomes: scrub forest ; mountains

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The Himalayan tahr inhabits steep rocky mountain sides, especially between 3,000-4,000 m asl, with woods and rhododendron scrub (Smith and Xie 2008). The species eats grass, other herbs and some fruits. The Himalayan tahr is diurnal, and lives in small groups of 2-20 individuals, excluding older solitary males. Mating occurs from October to January. One or occasionally two kids are born in June and July after a gestation of 180-242 days depending on delayed implantation. The age at sexual maturity is 1.5 years, with captive animal lived up to 22 years (Smith and Xie 2008).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Comments: Rugged hills and mountain slopes; mainly on wooded slopes (Nowak 1991).

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In the Himalayas, tahr inhabit mountainous habitat, commonly between 2,500 and 5,000 metres depending on season and also time of day. In winter they tend to occupy lower slopes, avoiding deep snow and frequenting southern cliffs where the vegetation is more exposed and available for grazing or browsing. In New Zealand they live on grassy mountain slopes and scrubland from 750 to 2250 meters in elevation, preferring the north facing slopes which are sunnier and accumulate less snow in the winter (2).
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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Hemitragus jemlahicus has had a significant negative effect on the native flora of New Zealand, which has no native herbivores. During the winter it eats less due to poor food quality and high metabolic costs. It eats alpine herbs and subalpine scrubland plants.

(Forsyth 1998; Forsyth, Parkes, and Hickling 2000; Huffman; Tustin 1990)

Plant Foods: leaves

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

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Associations

Hemitragus jemlahicus has had a significant negative affect on the native flora of New Zealand, which has no native herbivores.

(Forsyth 1998; Forsyth, Parkes, and Hickling 2000; Tustin 1990)

Ecosystem Impact: biodegradation

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In the Himalayas, Hemitragus jemlahicus is preyed on by the snow leopard, Uncia uncia. In New Zealand and other areas it has been introduced, its only predator is humans.

(Huffman)

Known Predators:

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Known predators

Hemitragus jemlahicus is prey of:
Uncia uncia

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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General Ecology

In New Zealand, population density was 4.5-6.8 per sq km; in natural (native?) habitat, travels in herds of 2-23 individuals (Nowak 1991).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Normal lifespan is 10-14 years, although individuals up to 22 years old have been reported. Females live longer than males. Accidental death due to rock slides or avalanches is not uncommon.

(Huffman; Pare, Barrette, and Prescott 1996; Tustin 1990)

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
22 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
10 to 14 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
10 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
21.8 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 21.8 years (captivity) Observations: Although males may be sexually mature at 2 years of age, they normally only start breeding at later ages.
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Reproduction

In the Himalayas, the rut runs from mid-October to mid-January. In New Zealand, the rut runs from April to July and peaks in May or early June. The difference in breeding season is due the six-month shift in seasons between the northern and southern hemispheres. Captive animals that are transplated to the opposite hemisphere shift their breeding cycles in two years or less. During the rut, younger males will follow groups of females and attempt, generally unsuccessfully, to mate with any female. Older males will follow and defend individual oestrus females. The mating display consists of a male standing facing a female, at a right angle to her, with his head and muzzle high and his mane erect and hiding his horns. This is followed by a series of head nods and brief copulation. The competitive display involves two males walking stiffly parallel to each other, with their mane and dorsal ridge erect, their heads down, and their horns exposed. The victor will either move to block the path of his opponent or chase him away. Only rarely does the competitive display lead to direct head-to-head wrestling, which in Hemitragus jemlahicus has been described as "half-hearted" relative to other horned or antlered mammals.

(Forsyth 1998, Forsyth and Hickling 1998, Huffman; Pare, Barrette, and Prescott 1996, Tustin 1990)

Mating System: polygynous

Females leave their groups to give birth. The kid is able to nurse within a few minutes and can walk within three hours. Mother and kid return to the group after a few days. Twins are very rare in the wild, but occur more frequently in captivity. In the Himalayas, births occur from mid-April to mid-July. In New Zealand, the median birth date is 30 November. Females are fecund at 2 years. Captive females can concieve at up to 18 years old, although they rarely live that long in the wild. Males are fecund at 2 years, but rarely have successful access to females until 4 years old.

(Forsyth 1998; Haysen, van Tienhoven, and van Tienhoven 1993; Pare, Barrette, and Prescott 1996; Tustin 1990)

Breeding season: births in April-July (spring-summer)

Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.

Average number of offspring: 1.01.

Range gestation period: 6 (low) months.

Average gestation period: 6 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 to 6 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 to 6 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous

Average birth mass: 2000 g.

Average number of offspring: 1.

Young stay in their mothers group until two years old, when the males disperse to form male-only groups. Females do not disperse.

(Tustin 1990)

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; post-independence association with parents

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In the Himalayas, mating season is from mid-October to mid-January; in captivity, has lived nearly 22 years (see Nowak 1991).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Hemitragus jemlahicus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Hemitragus jemlahicus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

In its native habitat, Hemitragus jemlahicus now survives only as remnant populations due to hunting and habitat loss. In areas where it was introduded, it is doing well, but is often heavily managed.

(Forsyth, Parkes, and Hickling 2000; Tustin 1990)

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Bhatnagar, Y.V. & Lovari, S.

Reviewer/s
Harris, R. & Festa-Bianchet, M. (Caprinae Red List Authority)

Contributor/s
Jackson, R.

Justification
Listed as Near Threatened because this species is believed to be in significant decline (but probably at a rate of less than 30% over three generations, taken at 21 years) due to hunting for food and habitat loss, making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable under criterion A2cd.

History
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
  • 1994
    Insufficiently Known
    (Groombridge 1994)
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

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Status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Population

Population
There is no global population estimate, nor knowledge of rates of change.

For China, there are no estimates of numbers, but the population is thought to be small, and only a few have been observed in the field (Feng et al., 1986). Wang (1998) thought that perhaps 400-500 occurred within China. No total population estimate is available for India, although recent counts include about 130 individuals in the Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary and greater than 100 in the Great Himalayan National Park, both in Himachal Pradesh (Gaston et al., in press; S. Pandey pers. comm.). Density estimates include 2.3/km² in the Daranghati Sanctuary (Himachal Pradesh) (S. Pandey pers. comm.), and 17/km² in part of Kedernath Wildlife Sanctuary (Uttar Pradesh) (S. Sathyakumar pers. comm.). It is probably declining in India (Y. V. Bhatnagar pers. comm. 2008). There is evidence to suggest that considerable local extinctions have taken place. The species may be close to extirpation in the western limit of its distribution in Jammu and Kashmir. The entire population reported north of the Chenab River from Kisthwar to the Banihal pass is believed to be extinct. Very small populations survive in the Bani-Sarthal areas of the Kathua district and the Kisthwar NP in Kisthwar-Doda districts. There are no available estimates for the total Nepalese population of tahr. Green (1978) estimated their ecological density in Langtang National Park to be between 6.8 to 25.0 tahr/km², and Bauer (1988) estimated a combined minimum number of 1,000 tahr for Sagamartha, Makalu-Barun (and Conservation Area) and Langtang National Parks.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The major threats in China are uncontrolled hunting and deforestation. In India, Himalayan tahr is sometimes hunted for meat, and there is apparently significant competition with livestock for summer grazing in some areas. Nevertheless, many areas of prime tahr habitat are sufficiently isolated, rugged and seasonally snow-covered, that the degree of disturbance, livestock grazing and habitat alteration by humans is minimized. In Nepal, threats come from an expanding human population and accompanying increases in livestock, habitat loss, poaching and access. As a result of these factors, tahr populations are becoming increasingly isolated. Avalanches during winters with high snowfall also can be a significant mortality factor for tahr.
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In its native range the Himalayan tahr is threatened by habitat loss as people exploit resources (e.g. medicinal plants) in more marginal areas (8), severe competition from domesticated sheep and goats (6) and over-hunting for sport and meat (2). There has been an increase in firearms along mountainous border regions following military conflicts in northern India, which has also contributed to the tahr's decline (8). In other areas where it has been introduced its populations are doing well but they are often heavily managed and hunted due to the tahr being a prize trophy for hunters worldwide (2). In New Zealand a large population once flourished with a population of 20,000 – 30,000 (7), but the government's decision to remove introduced species in recent years has caused a decrease in their numbers (5).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Listed as Category I species in China. It is not listed on CITES.

Within China, it occurs in Qomolangma Nature Reserve on the Sino-Nepal border. Conservation measures proposed for China include undertaking a survey and census to determine the species’ distribution and status.

In India, protected areas with Himalayan tahr (Gaston et al., 1981, 1983; Green, 1987b; Kathayat and Mathur 2002) include: Jammu and Kashmir – Kishtwar National Park (locally threatened); Himachal Pradesh - Great Himalayan National Park (confirmed), and Daranghati (locally threatened), Gamgul Siahbehi, Kanawar, Khokhan, Kugti, Manali (locally threatened or extinct), Rupi Bhaba, Sechu Tuan Nala, Tirthan and Tundah (locally threatened) Wildlife Sanctuaries; Uttarakhand -Nanda Devi and (probably) Valley of Flowers National Parks, Govind Pashu Vihar and Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuaries; and Sikkim - Khangchendzonga National Park. Himalayan tahr occurs in a very narrow band along timberline areas in the Himalaya, and although still present over much of its historical range, the lack of population data precludes a satisfactory status designation within its relatively restricted range. It appears, however, that the species is capable of using rugged forested slopes with temperate oak and pine forests, well below the timberline area where it is now found. This suggests that it current range distribution may reflect displacement from formerly used lower elevation areas. As well, much of its current distribution lies outside the network of protected areas. Conservation measures proposed for India: 1) Extend the Great Himalayan National Park as proposed. 2) Establish the proposed Srikhand National Park (Himachal Pradesh) 3) Devise innovative community based reserves for the species outside Pas (these need to include community based protection, tourism, awareness, etc).

Probably a significant proportion of Nepal’s tahr populations occur within protected areas, but it is also believed to be widespread in smaller, scattered populations outside reserves. The species is known to occur in Langtang, Lake Rara, Sagamartha, Makalu-Barun (and Conservation Area) and Shey-Phoksundo National Parks, in the Annapurna Conservation Area, and in Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve. It may also occur in Khaptad National Park in the Midlands (Bauer, 1988). Conservation measures proposed for Nepal: As with blue sheep, 1) maintain the current, closely controlled, legal hunting program, and 2) consider a regulated program of low-level subsistence hunting by local villagers. 3) It will also be necessary to study the impact of the increasing fragmentation of tahr populations. The first steps to address this issue would be to begin in selected areas by mapping tahr habitat features such as cliffs (using 1:50,000 topographic maps), followed by ground surveys to validate the species’ presence/absence.
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Conservation

There are many Himalayan protected areas where this tahr can be found (9), though difficulties in monitoring and protecting wildlife in these rugged areas makes it hard to judge the status of the species within these parks. There are plans to extend the Great Himalayan National Park's range and establish the Srikhand National Park as a reserve for tahr (8). Hunting is illegal in these areas, though enforcement activity is minimal (8). Much of the hunting is thought to be carried out by locals with firearms or the military. However, there has been a marked improvement in the attitude of the military towards wildlife in the last ten years, due to conservation efforts, which will hopefully continue and extend into schools and local towns (8). Further research into the ecology of the Himalayan tahr is required in order to define the most effective measures to enhance its future conservation (8).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Hemitragus jemlahicus has had a significant negative affect on the native flora of New Zealand, which has no native herbivores.

(Forsyth 1998; Forsyth, Parkes, and Hickling 2000; Tustin 1990)

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Hemitragus jemlahicus is widely hunted for sport and trophies. It is also hunted for meat.

(Davys, Forsyth, and Hickling 1998; Forsyth 1998)

Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material

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Economic Uses

Comments: Subject to sport and commercial hunting in New Zealand (see Nowak 1991).

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Wikipedia

Himalayan tahr

The Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) is a large ungulate native to the Himalayas in southern Tibet, northern India and Nepal. It is listed as Near Threatened by IUCN, as the population is declining due to hunting and habitat loss.[1]

Results of a phylogenetic analysis indicate that the Himalayan tahr is associated with wild goats, and the genus Hemitragus monospecific.[2]

The Himalayan tahr has been introduced to New Zealand and South Africa.[3]

Taxonomy and etymology[edit]

The word "tahr" comes from the Nepali language and was first used in English writing in 1835.[4] Tahrs belong to the order Artiodactyla, which denotes an even-toed ungulate mammal. Close relatives to the Himalayan tahr also associated to the Caprinae subfamily include sheep and goats.[5]

Physiology[edit]

General[edit]

H. jemlahicus in Nepal

The Himalayan tahr has a small head, small pointed ears, large eyes, and horns that vary between males and females.[5] Their horns reach a maximum length of 46 centimetres (18 in). Himalayan tahrs are sexually dimorphic, with females being smaller in weight and in size and having smaller horns. The horn is curved backwards, preventing injury during mating season when headbutting is a common mating ritual among males. The average male tahr usually weighs around 73 kg with females averaging 36 kg and is shorter in height than in length[6] The exterior of a tahr is well adapted to the harsh climate of the Himalayans. They sport thick, reddish wool coats and thick undercoats, indicative of the conditions of their habitat. Their coats thin with the end of winter and becomes lighter in color.[7] This shedding is presumably an adaptation that allows their internal body temperatures to adjust to the harsh temperatures of the Himalayan Mountains.[citation needed]

As a member of the ungulate group of mammals, the Himalayan tahr possesses an even number of toes. They have adapted the unique ability to grasp both smooth and rough surfaces that are typical of the mountainous terrain on which they reside. This useful characteristic also helps their mobility. The hooves of the tahr have a rubber-like core which allows for gripping smooth rocks while keratin at the rim of their hooves allow increased hoof durability, which is important for traversing the rocky ground. This adaptation allows for confident and swift maneuvering of the terrain.[7]

The lifespan of a Himalayan tahr typically ranges around 14 or 15 years, with females living longer than males. The oldest known Himalayan tahr lived to 22 years old in captivity.[8]

Reproduction[edit]

Tahrs are polygynous, and males are subject to stiff competition for access to females. Young reproductive males roam and mate opportunistically (when larger males are not present), while more mature males (more than four years old) will engage in ritualistic behavior and fighting to secure mates. During mating season, reproductive males lose much of their fat reserves, while females and nonreproductive males do not, indicating a substantial cost to these behaviors.[9] Factors that contribute to which males dominate include size, weight, and testosterone levels. Interestingly, coat color can have an effect; Himalayan tahrs with lighter coats are more likely to gain access to estrous females [10] Himalayan tahrs have precocious young which can stand soon after birth.[5] Females have a gestation period of 180–242 days, usually with a litter size of only one kid.[9][11] This indicates sexual selection can be extremely important to the fitness of males.

Diet[edit]

The herbivorous diets of the Himalayan tahrs leave them spending most of their time grazing on grasses and browsing on leaves and some fruits.[11] Their short legs allow them to balance while reaching for the leaves of shrubs and small trees.[7] The tahr consumes more woody plants than herb species[12] with as much as 75% of the tahr diet consisting of natural grasses.[13] The tahr, like most members of the bovid family, are ruminants and have complex digestive systems . A multichambered stomach allows the tahr to repeatedly regurgitate its food, chew it, and obtain nutrients from otherwise indigestible plant tissues.

Ecology in native habitat[edit]

Fundamental niche[edit]

For more details on what defines a fundamental niche, see Hutchisonian niche .

The Himalayan tahr is adapted to life in a cool climate with rocky terrain, which allows them to be found in mountainous areas. In the Himalayas, they are mainly found on slopes ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 m. Himalayan tahr can eat a wide variety of plants. They most often inhabit locations in where vegetation is exposed for browsing and grazing. During the winter (when snow covers vegetation at higher elevations), they are found on lower-altitude slopes.[14]

Intraspecific competition[edit]

During the rut, male Himalayan tahrs often compete with other males for access to females. Factors that contribute to reproductive success include large body size, large horn size, and high aggression. Coat color is a factor that determines rank among Himalayan tahrs, and males with light coats mate more often.[10] In addition, the horns of the male are often used in the ritual process to court female tahrs (either for display purposes or, less often, for direct combat), although these horns can also serve as a defense mechanisms against potential predators.[10]

Interspecific competition[edit]

Other ungulate herbivores with overlapping natural ranges include bharal, argali, and goral. Removal experiments (in which one of the hypothesized competitors is removed, and the effect on the other species is observed) have not been conducted to determine empirically that competition is actually occurring, but the animals do share food resources.[15] Competition can occur when two or more species share a limited resource, such as particular food sources, in a given area. Since the Himalayan tahr and the other ungulates are eating the same foods, competition possibly is occurring among them.

Predation[edit]

Tahr are preyed upon by Himalayan snow leopards.[15] The snow leopards also eat the other ungulate species in the area, which could result in apparent competition between the Himalayan tahr and one or more of the other herbivores. Apparent competition can occur when two species share a predator. If an increase in one of the prey species increases the predator population, this can translate into increased predation on the other prey species. This is called apparent competition, because the effect was indirect from the two prey species via the predator species rather than by direct competition of the two prey species for some shared resource.

Introduction as an invasive Species[edit]

Young Himalayan tahr

Argentina[edit]

The tahr was introduced into Argentina in 2006 by private individuals, presumably for hunting purposes. The importation has been deemed successful, but it is too soon to determine whether it will be detrimental to the environment.[16]

New Zealand[edit]

Tahrs was first introduced to New Zealand for sport and have since expanded rapidly into neighboring areas. They currently occupy a portion of the Southern Alps and are still being hunted as a sport.[16][17]

South Africa[edit]

The Himalayan tahr was introduced to South Africa when in the 1930s, two Himalayan tahrs escaped from a zoo in Cape Town. Subsequent populations of tahrs have descended from the original escaped pair and spread quickly over the Cape Peninsular mountain range.[18] Most of the population has been culled to make way for the reintroduction of the indigenous antelope, the klipspringer.

United States[edit]

The Himalayan tahr is present in New Mexico which would probably indicate it can also be found in other southwestern states. According to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish news release dated May 28, 2014, "Only one Wildlife Management Area, Water Canyon, allows hunting for nongame species as a management tool for the non-native Himalayan tahr, a large ungulate related to the wild goat."

Success as an invasive species[edit]

A key factor contributing to the success of the Himalayan tahr as an invasive species is their mobility. During the night, they move to locations with lower elevations to have better access to resources such as food and water, whereas during the day, they move to locations with higher elevation to rest and avoid predators.[12] This mobile behavior not only allows them to seek refuge from predators, but also allows them to have access to resources over a large area.

Another key characteristic that allows Himalayan tahr to be successful as an invasive species is their digestive tract. Their digestive system allows them to consume a wide variety of vegetation ranging from easy-to-digest leaves/grasses to woody shrubs and other “tough” vegetation not as easily digested by other species. This flexibility in diet not only allows Himalayan tahr to have a competitive advantage for resource use in their environment among other species, but it also allows them to be less hindered by abiotic disruptions and other natural disasters. In other words, their ability to digest a large range of vegetation allows the Himalayan tahr to have a bigger fundamental niche, and as a result, increases their success as an invasive species.[19]

Lastly, the Himalayan tahr lacks predators in the regions where it has been introduced, so is only limited by access to food and water, and its own reproductive rate.[19]

Impact as an invasive species[edit]

A negative impact the Himalayan tahrs have on their environment is increased herbivory on the native vegetation of the ecosystem, which can make it harder for other herbivores to find food. The increased herbivory can also lead to a decrease in soil nutrients, such as oxygen, nitrates, and ammonia, resulting in positive feedback loop, making it harder for plants to grow at all. Consequently, the natural fauna of the ecosystem is heavily affected. For example, endangered camelids were forced to adapt and move to higher elevations due to the increased herbivory from the Himalayan tahr. This increase has also resulted in poor soil quality in many environments occupied by the Himalayan tahr and has severely limited the presence of certain plant species. The lack of certain vegetation, in turn, may affect animal species that rely on them as a food source.[19]

Data on the rapid expansion of the tahr are documented by government agencies. Over a time span of 16 years, the Himalayan tahr reached up to 33 tahr/km2 in New Zealand - twice the initial population (2*N0). Without regulated hunting or the presence of natural barriers, the Himalayan tahr can pose a large threat to the indigenous fauna and flora populations within the area.[19]

Control methods[edit]

In 1930, the tahr was denied protection by the Animals Protection and Game Act (1921–22) and was thus recognized as a danger to the environment[20] (although the species is still considered to be endangered in the Himalayas by the World Conservation Union[21]). Since 1937, various government operations have been undertaken to reduce tahr population and/or keep it at fixed numbers. The control of tahr remains ecologically and economically significant because of their widespread destruction of native flora and fauna and their valuable capture for hunters, respectively.

Control by hunting[edit]

In 1933, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation prepared the Himalayan Tahr Control Plan which lists “aerial game recovery operations, recreational and safari hunting as primary means of control”.[22] Under the plan, the area of the tahr distribution was divided into two exclusion zones and seven management units. The exclusion zones set boundaries on the area that the tahr inhabits, with the official control operations to be employed to prevent them from spreading beyond those zones. The management unit has a fixed maximum density, which varies from 1-2.5 tahr/km2 and is considered to be low enough to have a minimal negative impact on the ecosystem and, even, restore native vegetation. Under these conditions, the plan aimed to keep tahr numbers below 10,000 throughout the South Island. Since then, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation has been actively advertising tahr hunting and has created 59 tahr-hunting areas. Hunting remains primary means of control of the invasive species; government operations have killed more than 24,000 tahrs by shooting [20] since 1933. As a primary method of tahr population control (although hard to quantify), hunting seems to be an efficient strategy because a large number of people take part in it. In general, hunting is a good method of biological control because it has a direct impact on tahr population and minimal indirect consequences on the surrounding ecology.

Control by poisoning[edit]

Sign warning of poisonous sodium fluoroacetate baits

In 1960, sodium monofluoroacetate (also known as compound 1080) was used to poison tahrs.[20] This derivative of fluoroacetic acid is commonly used in many countries such as Mexico, Australia, the United States, and New Zealand as a pesticide. Compound 1080 is highly water-soluble and is diluted by rainwater and broken down by aquatic microorganisms.[23] Water samples after baiting operations did not reveal dangerous levels of the compound.[24] In the soil, sodium monofluoroacetate is converted by bacteria and fungi to metabolic products, shown to be nonhazardous to the environment.[25]

According to Australia’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and Environment,[23] mammals (particularly cats and dogs) are the most susceptible to compound 1080 poisoning. Fish, birds, and amphibians generally are highly tolerant to the poison.[23] Although compound 1080 is a strong enough pesticide to eradicate the entire tahr population, political pressures from hunter groups hinder its use. Opposition by the general public also contributes to the decreased use of 1080 with concerns that the accumulation of 1080 at higher levels of the food chain will pose danger to mammals such as dogs, deer and pigs.[26]

Current control method[edit]

The success of the Tahr Control Plan, as well as the future of tahr in New Zealand, can be seen from the report prepared by Kenneth F.D. Hughey and Karen M. Wason,[27] which presents survey results conducted among farmers living within tahr distribution. As they demonstrate, roughly 80% of farmers view tahrs as a resource, not as a threat. The respondents indicated they place conservational and commercial value (live animal/meat, hunting, farming) on tahrs. Thirty six percent of these farmers also reported to having earned at least $1,000 a year in profit from having tahrs on their property, with the highest earnings being above $50,000 (Table 5.5 of that study), usually as a result of allowing professionally guided hunters on their property. Also, a 1988 study showed that hunters spent $851 per person per year on hunting, with expenses being greatest for big-game targets, such as the Himalayan tahr.[28] The fact that the tahr is no longer viewed by general public as an unwanted species may indicate their numbers are now successfully reduced to an acceptable range. This reflects the Department of Conservation’s efforts to promote tahr hunting, consistent monitoring for the trends in tahr population, and official control operations. In New Zealand alone, an estimated $840M have been spent on alien species per year (0.9% of GNP), 25% being towards vertebrate mammals. Of these total costs, $400 M have been dedicated to defense against the invasive species. If conditions maintain, “the total cost of alien vertebrates in New Zealand may therefore exceed $270 million per year”.[26] However, as shown above, these costs may come along with some negative environmental effects on native ecosystems.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bhatnagar, Y. V. & Lovari, S. (2008). "Hemitragus jemlahicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  2. ^ Ropiquet, A. & Hassanin, A. (2005). Molecular evidence for the polyphyly of the genus Hemitragus (Mammalia, Bovidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 36 (1): 154–168.
  3. ^ Grubb, P. (16 November 2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  4. ^ Simpson, J. A., and E. S. C. Weiner. The Oxford English Dictionary. 20 vols. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
  5. ^ a b c Theodor, Jessica M. “Artiodactyla (Even-Toed Ungulates Including Sheep and Camels).” In eLS. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2001. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.prx.library.gatech.edu/doi/10.1038/npg.els.0001570/abstract.
  6. ^ http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Hemitragus_jemlahicus/
  7. ^ a b c "Himalayan tahr", http://www.ultimateungulate.com/tahrhim.html, (Nov. 2001).
  8. ^ Smith, A. T., Yan Xie, Hoffman, R., Lunde, D., MacKinnon, J., Wilson, D. E. and Wozencraft, W. C. 2008. A Guide to the Mammals of China. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  9. ^ a b Forsyth, David M., Richard P. Duncan, Ken G. Tustin, and Jean-Michel Gaillard. “A Substantial Energetic Cost to Male Reproduction in a Sexually Dimorphic Ungulate.” Ecology 86, no. 8 (August 1, 2005): 2154–2163. doi:10.1890/03-0738.
  10. ^ a b c Lovari, S., B. Pellizzi, R. Boesi, and L. Fusani. “Mating Dominance Amongst Male Himalayan Tahr: Blonds Do Better.” Behavioural Processes 81, no. 1 (May 2009): 20–25. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2008.12.008.
  11. ^ a b UCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Hemitragus Jemlahicus (Himalayan Tahr). Version 2012.2 Accessed February 24, 2013. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/9919/0.
  12. ^ a b Watson, Michael(2007). “Aspects of the feeding ecology of Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlacicus), some comparisons with chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra rupicapra) and implications for tahr management in New Zealand” . Lincoln University.
  13. ^ Clauss, M., Hummel, J., Vercammen, F., Streich, W. J., (30 June 2005) Observations on the Macroscopic Digestive Anatomy of the Himalayan Tahr (hemitragus jemlahicus). Anatomia, Histologia, Embryologia.
  14. ^ Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus). Arkive. http://www.arkive.org/himalayan-tahr/hemitragus-jemlahicus/
  15. ^ a b Ale, Som B. “Ecology of the Snow Leopard and the Himalayan Tahr in Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Nepal.” University of Illinois, 2007. http://www.carnivoreconservation.org/files/thesis/ale_2007_phd.pdf.
  16. ^ a b DPIPWE (2011) Pest Risk Assessment: Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus). Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. Hobart, Tasmania.
  17. ^ Christe, A. H. C., Andrews, J. R. H., (July 1964) Introduced Ungulates in New Zealand- Himalayan Tahr. Tuatara: Volume 12, Issue 2.
  18. ^ Dickinson, Peter. “Zoo News Digest: The Return of the Tahr.” Zoo News Digest. 1 Feb. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2013.
  19. ^ a b c d Flueck, Werner (Oct, 2009). “The Slippery Slope of exporting invasive species: the case of Himalayan tahr arriving in South America” http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10530-009-9590-5?LI=true#page-7
  20. ^ a b c Andrews, J.R.H., A. H.C. Christie. 1964. Introduced ungulates in New Zealand: (a) Himalayan Tahr. Journal of the Biological Society 12: 69-77.
  21. ^ 2001. Himalayan Tahr. Blue Planet Biomes. http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/himalayan_tahr.htm
  22. ^ Himalayan Thar Control Plan. Canterbury Conservancy Conservation Management Series No 2. Department of Conservation, Christchurch, New Zealand.
  23. ^ a b c Poison 1080. Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water, and Environment. <http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter/nsf/WebPages/RPIO-4ZM7CX?open>.
  24. ^ Suren, A.; Lambert, P. (2006). "Do toxic baits containing sodium fluroacetate (1080) affect fish and invertebrate communities when they fall into streams?". New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 40 (4): 531–546.
  25. ^ Eason, C. T.; Wright, G. R.; Fitzgerald, H. (1992). "Sodium Monofluoroacetate (1080) Water-Residue Analysis after Large-Scale Possum Control" (pdf). New Zealand Journal of Ecology 16 (1): 47–49.
  26. ^ a b Clout, M. N. 2002. Ecological and economic costs of alien species in New Zealand. Pages 190-193 in D. Pimentel, editor. Biological Invasions. CRC Pres
  27. ^ K. F.D. Hughey, Wason K. M. 2005. Management of HImalayan Tahr in New Zealand. High Country Farmer Perspectives and Implications. Lincoln University.
  28. ^ Nugent G. 1992. Big-game, small-game, and gamebird hunting in New Zealand: Hunting effort, harvest, and expenditure in 1988. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 19.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Hemitragus jemlahicus, H. jayakari, and H. hylocrius sometimes have been regarded as only subspecifically distinct, but jemlahicus and hylocrius differ greatly in chromosome number, and most recent authroities have regarded all three taxa as full species (Nowak 1991; Grubb, in Wilson and Reeder 1993, 2005).

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